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With the coming of 2020 comes a whole new year to travel and experience adventure! I don’t know about you, but I am actively planning my 2020 trips. The list is endless, but I have narrowed it down to some top destinations I would like to visit this year. I have compiled a list of the top attractions on my list for each destination, some must try food options, and some family friendly attractions. Some of the destinations will be visited as a solo traveler and some as family travel, but I have not yet decided which yet-so I included some family fun options for each.
Here are the top 18 destinations on my bucket list for 2020:
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Italy is at the top of my list this year. Rome, Italy has so many great, classic attractions. From the historical buildings, stunning architecture, and mouth watering menu options there is something for everyone. Top attractions include the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum, Vatican CIty, Pantheon, Piazza Novana, the Sistine Chapel, and the Spanish Steps.
While visiting Rome is a must, near-by small, lesser known towns are also on the list to see.
Anzio is an ancient coastal town with a rich military history. It is located just an hour outside of Rome and offers much to see, including a fishing port, ferry terminal to the Pontine Islands, Roman villas, Roman tower, and sandy beaches.
Castelli Romani is located a few miles outside of Rome and consists of 13 small towns full of Italian charm. There is much to see-including caldera lakes, forests, and vineyards.
Food in Rome:
- Cacio e Pepe (cooked pasta with a smooth sauce made with aged sheep milk cheese, black pepper)
- Maritozzi (a croissant filled with whipped cream)
- Pizza al Taglio (a style of pizza unique to Rome, adorned dough cooked in a sheet pan that is cut and served by the slice)
- Rome is known for many meat based dishes as well that I will mention, but that are not on my list as a Vegetarian -Trapizzino (triangle shaped pizza stuffed with meatballs, chicken caccaitore, or other fillings), Suppli (rice balls filled with ground beef or sausage), Porchetta (slow roasted pork).
Family Friendly Attractions:
- Visit the Colosseum (plenty of room to explore)
- Catch a puppet show at Teatrino di Pulcinella al Gianicolo (an open air puppet theater)
- Visit the The Borghese Gardens (a large park with space to run, rowboat, ride a bike, pony rides on the weekends, gardens, and a zoo)
- Visit the Catacombs (again, lots of room to explore)
For more great information on Rome attractions check out this great post by Globe Trotting
For more information on great destinations outside of Rome, check out this post by Touropia.
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Paris has lots to offer from the well known, more popular sites such as the Effiel Tower, Louvre Museum and Notre-Dame Cathedral as well as less visited attractions and locations. These well known attractions are on the list, but so are some out of the way, lesser known, villages.
Paris is home to five “isolated” villages, or villages that most tourists have not heard of. The best way to really experience a destination is to experience it like the locals. These villages are high on my list for getting a unique experience in Paris. Butte-aux-Cailles is one mall town that features street art and cobblestone streets.
Food in Paris:
- Baguette (French bread)
- Pain au chocolat (a chocolate filled croissant)
- Brie (French cows milk cheese)
- There are also many traditional meat entrees to try, but as a vegetarian these are not on my list.
Family Fun in Paris: Some of the top family fun attractions on the list in Paris (besides the obvious top attractions) include:
- Disneyland Paris
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont (a nature park with streams, a gazebo, donkey rides, and carnival games)
- MénagerieduJardin des Plantes (a zoo featuring big cats, red pandas, and a primate house)
- Jardin d’Acclimatation (basically a theme park including pony rides, puppet shows, and animals)
- Musée Grévin (a wax museum featuring important figures in French Culture/history)
For more information/help planning a trip to Paris check out Nomadic Matt’s Guide to Paris.
For help planning a family friendly trip to Paris view this guide from Earth Trekkers.
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Athens, Greece is a historic destination, the capitol of Greece, and filled with intriguing sights to see. Top attractions include the Acropolis of Athens, the Parthenon, Plaka, and the Greek Agora. Athens is home to many museums highlighting the history of the area, including the Acropolis Museum and National Archaeological Museum.
Food in Athens:
- Saganaki (a fried cheese appetizer)
- Horiatiki Salata ( A Greek salad made up of red tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, Greek olives, extra virgin olive oil, feta cheese, and spiced with salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Fava (a creamy spread that is made from yellow split peas)
- Spanakopita (spinach pie, made with spinach, herbs cheeses, onion, eggs, and olive oil).
- Tomatokeftedes (tomato balls, made of tomatoes and herbs, and served with yogurt sauce)
- Gemista (meaning stuffed, a variety of different stuffed dishes are available, including tomatoes, zucchinis, and bell peppers. These may be stuffed with rice, herbs, spices, and tomato sauce).
- Briam (a roasted dish featuring different kinds of vegetables, such as eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, shallot, carrots, garlic, and herbs.)
Family Friendly Attractions:
- Visit the ruins (from past experience children love to wander and explore ruins. However, be sure that your children are respecting the ruins and not causing damage).
- Visit Parliament and feed the pigeons (always a hit activity)
- Attica Zoo Park
- National Gardens of Athens
- The Golden Hall Playground
- Take a ride on the Athens Happy Train (it takes you through the city and past many top sights)
- Visit the Children’s Museum
A guide to planning a trip to Athens, Greece by Nomadic Matt can be found here.
4-Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Mesa Verde is a national park located in southwest Colorado. It is home to over 600 cliff dwellings that date back to 550-1300 AD. These cliff dwellings were built by the ancestral Puebloans.
Mesa Verde is home to many great hiking trails that allow you to see the historic dwellings. Highlights to see at Mesa Verde National Park include Wetherrill and Chapin Mesa.
For more information on visiting Mesa Verde check out this guide.
5-San Diego, California
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San Diego is a city sitting on California’s Pacific coast. It is full of great attractions, including beaches, parks, gardens, museums, and art galleries. One attraction that hits close to home for me that will be a must do is the Whaley House, a historic home that is believed to be haunted. The reason that this stands out so much for me is my maiden name is, you guessed it, Whaley. If there is any relation, that I am not sure of it, but it is interesting none the less.
Food in San Diego:
San Diego is home to a number of different cuisine specialties, including Mexican food, wood-fried California style pizza, Asian specialties, and seafood. On my list of locally grown/made foods include:
- Local wines (San Pasqual Valley, Rancho Bernardo, and Julian)
- Hard and sweet apple cider locally produced
- Julian Apple Pie
Family Friendly Attractions:
- San Diego Zoo Safari Park
- Legoland California
- Seaworld San Diego
- Old Town California (historic area of San Diego with food and shopping).
- The New Children’s Museum
- Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
- Carlsbad Flower Fields
- La Jolla Cove
Check out this guide from TripSavvy for help planning a trip to San Diego.
6-Quebec City, Canada
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Quebec City, Canada is one of those places that I tell myself every year I will make it there this year. The architecture is stunning and it has the charm of a European City. Top attractions include Old Quebec, the old city walls, Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec, and Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.
Food in Quebec City (the food in Quebec City is largely French based, as the city was originally settled by the French and city has strong French roots)
- Poutine (a combination of French Fries, gravy and cheese curds)
- Crepes (so many different options here-meats for the non-vegetarians, and many sweet fruits based crepes that are Vegetarian friendly)
- Rabbit (not something I would try, but it is largely popular in Quebec City)
- Meat Pie (again, not something I would try, but it is popular in Quebec City)
Family Fun in Quebec City
- Village Vacances Valcartier (an outdoor recreation center)
- Méga Parc des Galeries de la Capitale (an indoor amusement park)
- Aquarium du Québec (auarium featuring over 10,000 marine animals)
- Plains of Abraham (a historic battlefield park that will give your kids lot of space to run/play)
- St Lawrence River Cruise
- Montmorency Falls
For more information on Quebec City, click here.
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Cozumel, Mexico is an island of off Mexco Riviera Maya featuring shorelines, beaches, and forests. Another unique aspect of Cozumel is the ancient Mayan ruins, a big draw for me. Chichen Itza, Coba, Tulum, and Ek Balam are some of the most popular ruin sites, but there are many smaller sites as well.
Food in Cozumel:
- Empandas (baked or fried turn overs that are stuffed with a variety of things, including meat, fruits, or vegetables.
- Esquites (corn in a cup topped with butter, lime juice, Chile powder, cheese, and mayo)
- Churros (a dessert covered in cinnamon and sugar)
- Marquesitas (crepe filled with cheese and other fillings)
- There are many meat based dishes that are unique to Mexico that I will mention (but again that are not on my list as a vegetarian): Cochinita Pibil (slow roasted pork), Pescado Frito (fried fish), Pozole (sou with chicken/pork).
- The beach (okay…so this one may be obvious. But what kid doesn’t like building a sand castle?)
- Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park (swimming, snorkeling, snacks, zip lining)
- Punta Sur Park Ecological Reserve (white sand beaches, wild life, and a lighthouse)
- Cozumel Glass Bottom Tour
- Visit a cenote (clear, natural, limestone pools)
For help planning a trip to Cozumel check out this guide.
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Nashville, TN is known as the country music capitol. It is home to many famous music venues, including the Grand Ole Opry House, Ryman Auditorium, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Also located in Nashville is the Johnny Cash museum.
Food in Nashville:
- Goo Goo Clusters (candy made of caramel, marshmallow, peanuts, and chocolate)
- Belle Meade Bourbon (a local alcoholic drink)
- Fruit tea (Nashville is known for its fruit tea, tea sweetened with pineapple, orange, and/or lemonade)
- Meat options: hot chicken, meat & three (meatloaf, brisket, country fried steak, or ham with vegetables)
Family Fun in Nashville:
- Adventure Science Center (hands on, educational exhibits)
- Nashville’s Children’s Theater
- Nashville Shores Waterpark and Treetop Adventure Park (water rides and a sky course)
- Nashville Zoo
- Rocket Fizz (a candy store!)
For more ideas of what to do in Nashville check out this guide.
Venice is a city built on 100 small islands in a lagoon of the Adriatic Sea. Venice is unique in that there are no roads, only canals. Top attractions in Venice include St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basillica, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal, and Bridge of Sighs.
Food in Venice:
- Bellini (an alcoholic drink originating from Venice made up of Prosecco and peach purée)
- Bigoli (long, thick pasta made from whole wheat flour)
- Risotto (a creamy rice dish that may include butter, onion, white wine, and parmesan cheese)
- Grappa (a grape based promace brandy)
- Tiramisu (a coffee flavored Italian dessert)
- Polenta (boiled cornmeal)
Family Fun in Venice:
- Take a boat ride on the Grand Canal
- Explore the prisons of Doge’s Palace
- Take a ride in a Gondola
- Watch Glassblowers on Murano
- Visit the beach (Lido)
Check out this guide to Venice for help planning your trip.
10-Grand Canyon, Arizona
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The Grand Canyon is a national park located in Arizona. It was carved by the Colorado River and stands today as colorful rock layers that wow visitors and display years and years of history.
There are many great viewpoints along the canyon, including Mather Point, Yavapai Observation Station, and the Desert View Watch Tower.
Many activities are offered at the Grand Canyon, including hiking, camping, bike riding, rafting, and guided tours.
More information on planning a trip to the Grand Canyon can be found here.
11-Waverly Hills Asylum, Kentucky
This destination is a little bit different…it comes from the internal need for me to explore abandoned buildings. And of course a little thrill from the supernatural! Waverly Hills Asylum is located in Jefferson County in Kentucky. It is believed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the world. It was once a tuberculosis sanitorium and later served as a home for the elderly until its closing in 1981.
Today tours of the building and ghost hunts are offered throughout the year with special holiday events. You can spend an overnight in the building and see what kind of out of this world experiences you encounter.
For more information on Waverly Hills click here.
Chicago is one of the largest cities in the US sitting next to Lake Michigan.
Food in Chicago:
- Deep dish pizza
- Buttermilk Old Fashioned Chicago Donuts
- Meat options include: Malbec Beef Empanadas, Jibarito (plantain sandwiches filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomato), Kuma burger
Family Fun in Chicago:
- Chicago Botanical Gardens
- Kohl Children Museum
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
- Ride the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier
- Take the Chicago River Walk
- Visit Millennium Park
For help planning a trip to Chicago click here.
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Cleveland is a US city located in Ohio. It is a traditional US city featuring the Rock and Roll hall of fame, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Zoo, West Side Markets, and for those of us who are fans of the film The Christmas Story, the Christmas Story house.
Food in Cleveland:
- Jack Frost Donuts
- Euclid Beach Popcorn Balls
- Apple Fritters for K&K bakery
- Dichotomy Popcorn from Campbell’s
- Meat options: Corned beef sandwich, Parmageddon (stuffed grilled cheese), bratwurst sandwich.
Family Fun in Cleveland:
- Cleveland Natural History Museum
- Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
- Great Lakes Science Center
- Cleveland Botanical Gardens (tree house, butterflies, and a splash fountain)
- Edgewater Park (with beaches, biking, boating, and picnicking)
For more information on planning a trip to Cleveland check out this guide.
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London is England’s capitol and a historic city dating back to Roman times. It has much to offer, including Big Ben, Westminster Abby, London Tower, the London Eye, and a short distance away Stonehenge and the Roman Baths.
Food in London:
- A full English breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, baked beans, and toast-vegetarian version also available with avocado and grilled halloumi).
- Scones with clotted cream and jam
- Crumpets with your choice of topping (similar to english muffins)
- Afternoon tea (scones, finger sandwiches, pastries, and of course tea)
- Yorkshire Pudding
- Pimm’s Cup (made with a British gin-based alcohol and ginger ale or lemon lime soda, fruit, and mint)
Family Friendly Attractions:
- London Zoo
- Natural History Museum
- Visit the British Museum
- The London Science Museum
- Ride the London Eye
- Hamleys Toy Store
- Warner Bros studio Tour
Foe help with planning a trip to London click here.
15-Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is a east coast park located in Maine, USA. The park features forests, sandy beaches, gardens, a lighthouse, and mountains/peaks. It is also home to many different species of wildlife, including moose, whales, and bears. Acadia is home to the highest peak on the East Coast.
Nearby Acadia National Park is Bar Harbor, a small bayside town with shopping and food options, a great place to stop after a busy day of hiking and exploring.
More information on visiting Acadia National Park can be found here.
16-Yellowstone National Park
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Yellowstone National Park is located in three US states, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Yellowstone is a park full of canyons, rivers, forests, hot springs, and think most notably geysers. The park is also home to hundreds of different animal species.
Yellowstone also offers many great outdoors activities, including hiking, rafting, paddling, horseback riding, rodeo, and fishing.
More information on planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park can be found here.
17- Ottawa, Canada
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Ottawa is the capitol of Canada. It has been on my bucket list for a long time and I just missed it this summer, being so close in Montreal. Unfortunately did not have time to make it there, but it is on my must do list for 2020.
Ottawa has so much to offer, including the architecture of Parliament Hall, Peace Tower, Byward Market, Fairmont Château Laurier, Rideau Canal, and Major’s Hill Park. Westboro Village is on the list for shopping and a relaxing stroll.
Food in Ottawa:
Ottawa is home to a mixture of cultural food, including Lebanese, Vietnamese, French, Italian, and Mediterranean cuisine.
- Shawarma (I will mention this not because it is on my list to try (not a vegetarian dish), but because Ottawa is said to be the Scawarma capitol of Canada. It is a Mediterranean dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices and roasted.
- Beaver Treats Fried Dough Pastry (originated in Ottawa, although can now be found around the globe)
- Caesars (alcoholic drink, the Canadian version of Bloody Marys)
- The Obama Cookie-a little bit of an interesting back story-this cookie was named after Obama when he visited in 2009 and bought cookies for his family. Okay, maybe not so interesting-but visitors still seek out these cookies.
Family Friendly Attractions in Ottawa:
- Petrie Island Beach (a sandy beach that sits on the Ottawa River)
- Canadian Museum of History (the museum displays the history of Canada through fun and interactive exhibits)
- The Rideau Canal (kayaking, canoeing, walking trails, and scenic boat tours)
- Wilderness Tours (white water rafting)
- Omega Park (A wild life park)
For tips on planning a trip to Ottawa have a look at this guide by Planet D.
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Phuket, Thailand is the largest island in Thailand. It is famous for its white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and inexpensive costs (food and hotels). Phuket offers much to do, including visiting the famous Patong Beach, a boat tour through Phang Nga Bay, and visit Phuket town for some local culture.
Food in Phuket:
- Roti (a sweet treat made with either banana, chocolate, condensed milk, and nutella)
- Som Tom (Papaya Salad) (papaya, tomatoes, green beans and chilles)
- Khao Pad (fried rice that may or may not be made with pork, chicken, or seafood)
- Fried yellow noodles with vegetables
- Meat options: Khao Ka Moo (stewed pork leg with rice), Moo Ping (pork), Kai Yang (grilled chicken)
Family Fun in Thailad:
- Visit the beach
- Phuket Trickeye Museum
- Phuket Fantasea (live show)
- Splash Jungle Water Park
- Zorbing at Rollerball
- Patong Go Kart Speedway
Tips for planning a trip to Phuket can be found here.
In addition to the above destinations, a couple of my other 2020 goals include:
- Hiking an additional 10 Adirondack High Peaks (On my quest to become a ADK 46’er)
- Visiting at least 10 more US States (On my quest to visit all 50 US states)
Join me at year’s end to review my travels for 2020 and see how many of these great destinations I made it to!
I would love to hear from you-What destinations are you planning to visit or hope to visit in 2020?